Bishop Vincent’s homily for the funeral of Tony Bleasdale OAM, Mayor of Blacktown

By Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, 21 May 2024
A screenshot of Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, delivering the homily during the funeral of former Blacktown City Council Mayor Tony Bleasdale at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church, Horsley Park, on Monday 20 May 2024. Image: Funeral Video Australia/Supplied


Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta

Homily for the funeral of Hon. Anthony “Tony” John Bleasdale OAM, Mayor of Blacktown, at Our Lady of Victories Church, Horsley Park

Readings: Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 22 (23); Romans 8:31–35, 37-39; Matthew 11:25-30 

20 May 2024


Dear friends,

We gather to remember to our loving God the Honourable Anthony John Bleasdale OAM who was known to many as the Mayor of Blacktown, the largest Council in New South Wales and one of the most culturally diverse in Australia. Tony was a passionate community builder, a dedicated servant leader, a down-to-earth fellow traveller and above all, a loving husband to Nina; a devoted father to Francis, Catherine, Nicholas, and Christina; a grandfather to his adoring eight grandchildren.

Starting as a bricklayer, Tony worked for 40 years in the building industry. Through lived experience, he understood and advocated for the workers’ rights. They say that all politics is local and Tony was an epitome of local politics and a champion of Western Sydney. Elected as a councillor since 1996 and Mayor since 2019, he worked hard and fought hard for the people of the City of Blacktown. Perhaps being a migrant himself, he had a deep empathy and compassion for those who struggle to make a new life in Australia. Tony was particularly passionate for his disadvantaged constituents and First Nations peoples. In fact, I first met him and Nina at Holy Family Church, Emerton, where he worshipped and supported the parish’s outstanding engagement with local Aboriginal residents.

One of Tony’s big dreams was to revitalise the Blacktown CBD in conjunction with the Walker Corporation. As the Bishop of Western Sydney, I was party to his vision of a vibrant, prosperous and people-friendly city. Tony said to me one more than one occasion that he had the Order of Australia. All he needed was a basilica in his city, so that he could be elevated to be “Lord Mayor”. Tony, as you literally died on the job, may the Lord elevate you even much higher!

His sudden departure has left us with an emptiness. But we also feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that he has blessed the lives and relationships of many, that he has enriched us with his friendship, sense of civic duty and service. Tony has given his all to the world. He has accomplished his mission and now, there is nothing to wait for but God’s abundant mercy and love.

The readings we have heard speak of God’s love which is stronger than death. Isaiah consoles his people in exile that the time of their liberation is near at hand. They will be vindicated, redeemed and restored. God will remove the veil of mourning and wipe the tears from their faces. Isaiah speaks metaphorically about the banquet of joy for those who persevere through the pain of the exile. Paul was similarly convinced that “nothing can come between us and the love of Christ”. Despite of all things to the contrary, those who stake everything on God’s promise, those who serve selflessly and generously, those who live a life oriented to the common good and public responsibility will be rewarded.

In the Gospel, Jesus also speaks words of comfort and consolation to the humble and lowly. He assures them that divine justice will triumph. Just as he was able to carry the burden of the cross, with the strength of his faith in the Father, we too can do the same, with the strength of our faith in him. Jesus’ invitation to carry the yoke of loving service, then, is not a call to disengagement and flight in the face of challenges. It is as it were a summons to renew and re-energise our faith so that we can live a life of discipleship.

We give thanks to God for a life richly lived and generously shared. We use the words of Mary of Nazareth in praising God on behalf of Tony. “My soul magnifies the Lord, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant”. The God he served was one who filled the poor with good things. In other words, Tony was committed to justice, compassion, to raising up the downhearted, strengthening the weak and advocating for the vulnerable. This has been the essence of his life.

So, we salute a man who has given a superb example of generous service, and who never rested from his desire to do the work of justice. We commend him to the Creator God whose mercy and love he has endeavoured to imitate and witness to by his own life. We cherish his memories with profound appreciation. We accompany him with our respects and prayers, confident that the greater crowning awaits a life well lived and a mission well accomplished.

Dear friends,

St Paul writes in another place “The life and death of each of us has its influence on others”. This has been so true of Tony. His influence on us, on the people of Western Sydney and the community that he loved and gave himself entirely to it will live on, in life and now in death. It will eventually be gathered up and transformed with the power of the one who is the Alpha and the Omega of all that exists. Indeed, as we mourn for his death, our love is rekindled, our hope strengthened, and our commitment to public responsibility renewed. May Christ is the way, the truth and the life who has guided Tony in his life of service to his family and the community also guide us on our pilgrimage until the day we are reunited with him and all our deceased loved ones.


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